Ulster Cycling News

Harkens Conquers Orra Again

This is the second year that Duffin Transport Racing has hosted the Orra mountain road Time Trial which is an open event to riders all over Ulster. The event is quite unique in terms of time trials as most time trials take place on flat roads with no degree of technicality. This can’t be said of this TT with lots of climbing, technical cornering at high speed, a fast descent to the finish line and of course a bumpy road.

This year flyer Stephen Harkens of Team Madigan was back to defend his title as the super fly or midget as he prefers to be known now. Not only did Stephen hold the record from last year but he was destined to come back for another crack at the time given the prize available on the night for a new course record. Stephen Harkens who rides with the Madigan Club is a well-known time trialist and Road Racer on the local circuit and former international triathlete. Despite now being in the veteran’s category Stephen shows no sign of slowing down as was discovered on the night.

Just to make things taster the weather conditions were just perfect which is often a key factor in any time trial not least over Orra. The time to beat as out there at 46 minutes and 2 seconds with only a betting man betting against Stephen Harkens to win.

There were 15 riders at the start line which was disappointing for such a testing course and down on last year’s numbers but hopefully in time the event will grow to be a firm favourite on the calendar with most riders coming away from the event with the satisfaction of testing their lungs and legs on the hardest TT of the year.

Despite there only being the 15 riders there was some speculation around the possibility of an upset when Sean McIntyre of the Shelbourne Orchard  Club appeared late on the evening. Sean has being showing great form in the TTs over the last 12 months and he was going to be a bit of an unknown quantity over Orra being his first effort. He has also got his upgrade to A3 level and is showing real potential. The most surprising thing was that Sean was celebrating his 29th Birthday on the night. Call him mad or just plan crazy he was a man on a mission.

So the Testers took off from the start line on the Altnrichard Road near Magherhoney at 1 minute intervals between them with the fast men fully expecting to overtake some less fast men on course.

Back at the finish line Timekeeper Gordon Parker waited impatiently for the riders to return not because he wasn’t enjoying the warm pleasant evening but because the midges decided on a feast and Gordon was on offer.

So the riders started to come to the line not necessarily in the order of starting line up which called upon Gordon keen eye. Colin porter set the benchmark at 48.31 which was a PB for Colin and set the scene. Shortly after Connor Young of the Ballymena Road Club shocked matters with a 45.48 setting new course record. Was an upset on the cards and was the money in his hip pocket. Too early to say with Harkens still on the course. Few minutes later coming into sight was the diminutive figure of Stephen Harkens  with all eyes on the clock. Hard to express the amazement when you know that not only had the course record been beaten from last year but well and truly thumped with a 44.41, which averages at almost 22mph. Most guys struggle to average that on the flat but Stephen was born for uphills and supposedly downhills as well. Was there anything more to worry about. Well maybe not but when Sean McIntyre came into sight there was a slight shake when it was said this is fast one coming now. However not quite fast enough to beat Stephen but fast enough to have beaten everyone else. Something tells us Sean is coming back………


Until next year and hopefully we can get a lot more testers to come out in support of what is a really superb course. Duffin transport would like once again to thank all who helped and participated in the event.

  1. Stephen Harkens                       Team Madigan      44:41
  2. Sean McIntyre                            Shelbourne              45:24
  3. Connor Young                          Ballymena RC         45:48
  4. Aaron Swann                             TSC Racing              47:11
  5. Matthew Brennan                     Ballymena RC         48:30
  6. Colin Porter                                 Team Madigan      48:31
  7. Curtis Gilmore                             Team Madigan      48:44
  8. Gary Maybin                              Ballycastle CC        50:16
  9. Gerry McNally                            Bann Valley             51:27
  10. Joe Henry                                    Phoenix CC             51:44
  11. Russell Callaghan                      Bann Wheelers        51:51
  12. Neill Stratton                                Shelbourne              52:47
  13. Phil Dorman                                North Down CC     54:19
  14. Gerry Scullion                             Bann Valley             1:05:41

Some local riders to take the starting line included retired Ballycastle hurler Gary Maybin and Clough under 16 Aaron Swan who also is showing some great potential on the cycling front and determinedly made his mark on the night with a new schoolboy record.  Junior Stuart Laverty from the Ballymoney Club had luck against him on the night with a mechanical early on and had to retire. Disappointed no doubt but will be back for more soon.

Also worthy of mention was Gerry Scullion of the Bann Valley club who was riding for the second year. We won’t reveal any ages here but Gerry what Gerry might now lack in tempo he most certainly make up for in experience. Admiration must go to Gerry to endure the course in the full knowledge of having done it last year. Mind you his words at the end said it all, “never again”!!!!!!!


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